“Apple Inc is finally launching its iPhone on China Mobile Ltd’s vast network on Friday, opening the door to the world’s largest carrier’s 763 million subscribers and giving its China sales a short-term jolt,” Adam Rose reports for Reuters. “Underlining how much the launch means for Apple, Chief Executive Tim Cook was on hand as the carrier’s flagship store opened in Beijing’s financial district. With China Mobile Chairman Xi Guohua alongside, Cook gifted signed iPhones to a handful of customers and posed for pictures.”
“But the arrival of the iPhone could be a double-edged sword for China Mobile, with some analysts predicting a costly subsidy war as rival carriers compete to lure customers,” Rose reports. “‘I don’t see a price war coming where Apple is engaged in the war, but I do think you’re going to see a subsidy war coming,’ said Michael Clendenin, managing director of Shanghai-based RedTech Advisors. ‘China Mobile, if they’re not making their targets on sales for these phones, they’re going to increase the subsidies… It’s like airlines: the other guys will fall like dominoes, so China Unicom will do it and China Telecom will do it.’ China Mobile’s iPhone sales are expected to reach 12 million in its 2014 fiscal year, but its subsidies will leap 57 percent to 42.4 billion yuan ($7 billion), up from 27 billion yuan in its fiscal year 2013, wrote Cynthia Meng, a Jefferies analyst, in a December note.”
“Another issue is the thriving grey market for iPhones, where users can buy handsets typically smuggled from Hong Kong and then sign up for a China Mobile contract. China Mobile already has 45 million iPhone users in China, according to a company spokeswoman,” Rose reports. “‘You need to consider the cannibalization for sales to China Unicom, China Telecom and the grey market, so even though there’s an addition from China Mobile it will also impact sales from other channels as well,” said CK Lu, a Taiwan-based analyst with Gartner. ‘If we really want to see the expansion of sales we’ll have to wait for the next version of the iPhone. If China Mobile gets first launch and their subsidies are attractive people will probably rush to the iPhone that China Mobile can provide.'”
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